Sunday, February 27, 2011

Yard work

We planted a blueberry bush, some peppers, tomatoes and brussels sprouts. Joseph's choice of seeds. Between you, me and the squirrels, I am uncertain if we will ever get to eat any of it, but I am hopeful!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

At the table

Recently a new blog was recommended to me, and I love reading many of the post. Emily over at a Beautiful Life, challenges us to pay attention the the family meal, make it a sacred moment in our days.
I am not certain if I could post something at the moment that would fit the wonderful example. But we do strive to make the family meal a special and God honouring time. Of course being me, I will have to mention the challenges as well. Challenges like.. having children actually sit down at the meal.
But let's not start with that. Let's start with the meal itsself. We eat as a family in the evening, all together around the table. For a while we let things go and ended up eating in the living room together, but it just felt wrong. Besides, we ended up watching tv while eating instead of spending time really together.
Now the big challenge for me is that both of my children are very young, and very active. Joseph is three and a half, and time to sit still is, in his opinion, wasted time. Unless he is playing with his trains, I guess. Michael just turned one, so the main challenge is to make sure he eats and does not just toss all the food on the floor, while squeeling for his cup. While Michael eats just about anything, Joseph is going through a phase in which five bites is about
I used to have visions of wonderfully balanced conversations around the dinner table in which we all tell about our days and talk about edifying things. At the moment, dinner conversation is a litany of 'please sit down, sweetie." "Joseph, please wait till your mouth is empty before speaking." While either my husband or I need to get up three or four times a meal, no matter how many things we try and put on the table, trying to anticipate the children's needs.
On the other hand... if I did not go through these training years now, how big is the chance that when they turn twelve, I can turn around and say; "Okay, from now on we will all spend family time sitting and eating serenely together" and I can expect them to have table manners, inteligent conversation, and a desire to spend the time with us?

So, at this young age, we muddle through. We pray before mealtimes, in English and in Dutch. The prayers are short, but by now my oldest son knows them, and my youngest son recognizes them. Dada asks questions to Joseph, like: so what did you do today? The answers are commonplace, since our days are simple. We went to the grocery store. To the park. We played with the sand. And I provide humourous comments, by filling in the details.
While I love beautiful tablecloths and candlesticks, right now they would form another challenge to stop the children from pulling it, spilling tomato sauce on it before the first bite has been taken and an extra temptation for me to get upset at not having my quiet haven of well behaved conversation and serene prayer.
Before I get there, I believe I need to go through this phase of family meal time with training wheels on. We see progress, as we manage to keep our oldest boy at the table longer each day. We do not squabble anymore about whether he wants to eat what is on his plate. He will eat it or not, but not receive anything else. It's a challenge at the moment, but I hope that in a few years, I will be able to savour the fruit of our mealtime prayers, admonitions not to speak with the mouth full, and homecooked meals, in having a family happily gathered around the table, talking, praying and celebrating meals together.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Two new embroidery projects

One is a little cribsheet (not the fitted sheet, but a light replacement for a receiving blanket.) The second one will be a baptismal garment.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


As I mentioned earlier, until a few days ago, I did not even own a paintbrush. My childhood 'trauma's' over any attempt to draw or paint are pretty convincing that I have absolutely no talent in this area. And it is true, I probably do not, but I do not need talent to have some fun with my little boy, and to try my hand at something new and intriguing. I have always envied people who could draw or paint, or sketch. Part of it might be that I grew up with someone who was and is an amazing artist, while I couldn't even draw a stick figure.

Still, I am going to try and let perfectionism go and enjoy my little paintbrush and my little figures. And if they do not end up like the art of this talented gentleman, with a bit of practice, I can probably get something recognizable.

If you are looking for an original Saint's day gift, a special Easter keep sake, or -looking forward- a one of a kind nativity, go have a look at:
StLukesbrush over at etsy:

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Starting Saints

Jessica, over at Shower of Roses inspired me a while ago to try and make some wooden saints. Only, I never dared to do it, because.. let's be honest, I don't even OWN a paint brush, that's how bad I am at crafts that do not include working a fine needle. Still, they looked so cute. When in my local craft store, I happened to come across these two little wooden, unpainted dolls, I just had to buy them. And a sampler set of paint. And three paint brushes.
Yesterday, in a few unguarded minutes, I painted the mantel and veil on one of them. Joseph and I did the face together on the second one, with both of our hands holding the marker. Today he wants to try his hand at the paint. I need to squelch my inner perfectionist on that one, and just let him!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Wedding dresses.. longing for beauty.

No, this is not another excuse to post some more pictures of my wedding dress. (Though I admit, I am tempted.) But while visiting Mrs. Beguiles' wonderful blog again today, it struck me how many women jumped at the chance of sharing their wedding gown. Of course I do not know most of the ladies who, like me, responded with their picture of beauty and romance, but in general they seemed happily married women, not longing back to retrace a 'princess for a day' experience. Yet there is something... appealing about the subject of wedding dresses. Our own, but also those of others. I can only speak for myself, but I think the sheer beauty of the gown we selected is something we keep looking back at, and something perhaps that we miss in our day to day lives.
When you ask many moms what they love to wear, their answer is: "Oh, as long as it is comfortable" "Oh, as long as I can chase the kids in it." We don't want fuss. We don't want feathers. We want to be comfortable and do our jobs as mothers. And while we may have a few dresses, 'gowns' are so inpractical. Would you want a baby to spit up on your wedding dress? How would you clean apple sauce off the floor wearing all white? And... what would people say if they saw us all dressed up like some opera star when we were just running to the supermarket? It's not practical. It's not realistic. And yet...

There is that little corner in the minds of many of us that longs for something else. How many times have you looked at a site with Regency patterns and thought it would be wonderful to wear one of those dresses tomorrow. But you can just see yourself in the post office. Where would you put the sippy cups? The diapers? And you just know that as soon as you would put on that one.. special.. dress it will have to go in the laundry ten minutes after you put it on. Wearing a dress like that is... like an invitation for the stomach flu, right?

I wonder. I can't help myself but wonder. I look at what I am wearing as I sit here, typing. Not a regency dress. Not sweats either. Maybe I fall somewhere in the middle. My top is pretty, and elegant. Black with long sleeves and some style in the way it is cut. My skirt... well.. it used to be one of my favorites. But now it is tired. And slightly frayed and faded. It is a long skirt though, with a pretty, modern floral pattern, but if I am honest, it is not the gown I want to wear.
Something inside me still longs for the medieval style dress that I wore as my wedding dress. Maybe not in ivory silk. Maybe not with a veil. But a nice green flax, or cotton, or wool.. that should be doable, right? Women used to wear these clothes all the time and often had a much more physical life than I. More children than I.
Maybe the crinoline of the fifties is calling. Maybe you prefer to think of the empire waist of regency gowns. Maybe like Anne of Green Gables, you long for puffed sleeves. But I challenge you, as I challenge myself, to bring some of those desires in your life and your wardrobe.
We don't all have to walk around in costumes, but... with a litle bit of searching on this thing called the interent, we can come pretty close to dressing the style we actually want. And if someone spills applesauce on it? Well, most dresses will wash. Just as those yoga pants do.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Yes, that is a seriously swollen, slightly mangled looking hand. War wounds. But I display them gladly and gratefully, because I may have preserved my little boy from much worse.
Our doorbell has these four long chime pipes. Joseph loves to play with them. I had him on my hip to comfort him because he was dissapointed at not having earned a treat. The moment I urged him to be gentle, he pulled way too hard and the heay casing on top came crashing down.. towards where Michael was playing on the floor. Mother's instinct kicked in and smashed my hand into it as it was hurling down to deflect it. Got hit in the hand by two of the sharp points. Michael cried because he was startled, but considering the hole in my hand from higher up, it might have given him a serious hole in the head if it had landed on him.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The story of a gown...

Three posts in one day? What could have caused that? Why the lovely Mrs. Beguiles of course. While she is not responsible for the homeschool mayhem she did ask us to describe our wedding gowns. Now even five years after the fact, there is little that can delight me more than talk about it, except perhaps talking about my wonderful husband. But that must be another post. I love wedding shows even up to this day, and despite the fact that my wedding was done on a budget, with lots of friends pitching in, I thought it amazing, and I still wouldn't trade my wedding gown for anything of the fanciest designer.

I always joke that I actually had the design of my wedding gown before I was even engaged.
I had, and still have, an interest in medieval style, and had bought a pattern in the hope of making the gown for a convention, but in the end decided against the attempt.
I remember having send a picture of the pattern to my husband, then my 'suitor' at the time, talking enthousiastically about the convention. He mentioned how much he thought the gown would suit me. Once we were engaged, I could not get that gown out of my head. So instead of the months of bridal shopping that I had always envisioned myself doing, trying on everything possible, I asked a seamstress to create my wedding dress from the pattern I already had.

At the same time, I had stumbled in one of my favorite lace shops over a magnificent lace veil with lily of the valley. Since it was completely out of my budget I put all thoughts about it aside and considered maybe embroidering my own veil. However, a few months later, my mother and mother in law conspired together and gave it to me as a thirtieth birthday gift.

And now.. on to my dress. We chose a light ivory silk. The silhouette had princess seams and long sleeves. It was important for me to have sleeves, and I loved the way they turned out.


The ring pillow was made in the same lace as the veil, so this gives you a close up look of the lily of the valley pattern, that I can't seem to capture in the other pictures.


I wore a crown of flowers on my head instead of a tiara, because it seemed to suit, besides I didn't want a tiara to take the attention off the veil. Everything somehow had a bit the style of a time when the whole world was still divided in tiny realms, and local ladies of the keep married with flowers in their hair, joining two families and had a big feast afterwards for friends and neighbours and all the community.


In keeping with that theme, and because we didn't see the need for an expensive rental car, we just walked through the city towards the cathedral, which was my parish church at the time. It was a lot of fun with people we had never met shouting well wishes to us as we passed.


All in all, I guess I looked rather oldfashioned, but I loved it, and even though we didn't do it on purpose, it fit the setting in the cathedral.


When we left after the wedding, we just caught one lucky ray of light, like a final blessing on our vows.


And almost five years later, I adore my husband even more than I did on that most wonderful of days!


A friend of mine vehemently objects to people using the term homeschooling for children under the age of say... six. Under that age you are not replacing school, you are just parenting. Still.. the last few days Joseph and I have slowly added a few more organized activities to our daily lives. Just ten minutes of 'work' once or twice a day. He has been tracing numbers, and I am hoping that daddy will start teaching him how to read very soon. I love reading to him, but I also love the enthousiasm he shows for learning how to read by himself. He loves to pretend to read the stories he has learned by heart be having them read to him through and through.
Anyhow, I am trying to become a bit more organized about it all. So I moved a little cabinet from the playroom to our kitchen table and repurposed it as my 'school cabinet'. I had it all wonderfully organized. Had.. being the operative word. Michael clearly wanted to have some homeschool fun for himself.

Ups and downs

Yesterday was 'one of those days'. You know them. For some reason everything goes wrong. The heart of the matter was Michael. There may be a tooth coming through or something was wrong, but he did NOT.. STOP.. CRYING until naptime at 3 pm. I have read and truely believe that mothers who have gone through colic with their baby are long afterwards extra sensitive to the sound of crying children. Intolerant almost. I am not sure whether that is scientific or not, but I can certainly attest to it. I just could not put him down for a single moment and nothing I did seemed to help. Then of course Joseph got upset because he couldn't get any atention and whenever I tried to put Michael down, he veered straight for Joseph's traintracks and dismantled them. Joseph had some trouble with one of the tracks. He had put a bridge over a curved track which meant that the trains could not get through. And that frustrated him. I tried to help, but each time I put Michael down he veered towards it. I dealt with the tantrums calmly, maturely, while trying to be heard over the ever wailing Michael.
Finally, during a full sized tantrum, with my arms aching, my head pounding, I snapped and yelled at Joseph: JUST BECAUSE A TOY DOES NOT WORK IS NO REASON TO START SCREAMING." Not my finest mothering moment. And not the example of how to teach my son how to deal with frustration.
Still.. as a compassionate friend shared with me: One day does not a childhood make. After naptime, things seemed to have settled down, and we managed a pleasant evening. Today I seem to have different children. Happy, playful.. of course still a handful, but not seemingly intent anymore on driving mommy into the madhouse. We went to pick up photos, we played at the mall playground, we went grocery shopping, we played outside, we planted some seeds. Whew.. what a difference a day makes.

Friday, February 11, 2011

My first mommy craft

A few posts ago, I mentioned how much I enjoy my children becoming older. Today we reached two milestones. One is a Michael milestone. A few days after his first birthday, Michael finally said his first word. It wasn't mommy. It wasn't daddy. It was "kuh" "kuh" "kuh" while trying to reach his sippy cup! Hurray! The first step towards verbal communication. I treasure that first word!

Another milestone is pictured above. Joseph and I managed to make the little Grotto for the celebration of the feastday of Our Lady of Lourdes. I remember as a child in school (public school even) how in may we made this craft in honor of Our Lady. It was a round cardboard box (from those little wedges of Laughing Cow cheese). The background was painted light blue, some glittery garlad was strung around it and inside we would glue a picture of Our Lady of Lourdes. If you are from Belgium and around my age, you probably made it yourself one year. It is one of the few craft projects I actually remember.
So today I wanted to make it with Joseph. Unfortunately the little round cheesebox had been disposed of, so I had to improvise. Joseph chose the picture of Our Lady, and I printed it. He helped cut out the rectangle for the background, punch the stars, and glue everything together.
Mommy crafts! A new era has started.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Today I was sitting at the computer with a little boy on my lap. I think mothers spend half of the time doing what they do with someone either sitting on them, hanging on them, or held by them. Depending on what they are doing, this is a good thing, or a slight hurdle to efficiency.
Still.. I was tapping away on the keys when my computer spoke to me. Well, not literally but this message appeared on my screen:

Computer: unrecognizable device USB.

Me (unaware of having anything plugged in): huh?

I look down and see that Michael has the camera connect cable in his mouth.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Birthday party

We were celebrating Michael's birthday saturday, three days before the actual event. My carefree roll with the flow attitude that had worked so well for christmas seemed to get me in a bit of trouble this time though. The last two days before the party several little things seemed to go wrong. Michael was really fussy on friday, making it harder to get everything cleaned up enough so people would neither break their legs nor stick to the floor. The sushi platter I had planned to quickly pick up didn't exist anymore. (note to self: go with the flow is good, put in a call to check if the food you want to serve actually still exists might not be that bad an idea either.). The pants I had started to iron for tomorrow's pictures had still stains on them that didn't get out even after repeat washing and the weather had turned back to frigid, making it uncertain that my wonderful in laws could be there. Then I had a call from JCPenny that their camera had broken down and our morning appointment couldn't go through, and I burned my hand while trying to make pasta sauce with Michael hanging on my leg.....

Nothing really major in itsself but the mantra "it's just a fun get together. Nothing special. Don't worry. People come for you, not your house or the food. Everything will just be fine and fun if you don't let it sour your mood." started to just fray a little bit at the edges. I think I shall call it 'artistically frayed' though. Or maybe just a fringe, because I kept it together and was rewarded by a wonderful day.
Our photographer called to say that the camera had arrived early, so we could still go. The pictures turned out pretty nice. Back at home the food came out great. And the company was superb. Michael seemed to enjoy the attention and demonstrated his new walking skills and his interest in every tool for housecleaning. Joseph was mostly interested in the cake! The Pooh theme was a succes and the conversation wonderful. And despite some technological glitches we managed to video Skype with my mother at the pinnacle of the birthday celebration where everybody gathered to sing happy birthday around the cake so she could be there somewhat as well.

The only one who wasn't aware of that moment anymore was the birthday boy who had fallen asleep on my shoulder. It was a cute moment and one we will tease him with the rest of his life. After I put him in bed, the rest of us proceeded with a family tradition of birthday hats: in this case everybody donned Pooh ears. Everybody except Joseph who wouldn't keep his on. I think the grown ups actually enjoy these things more than the children.

Michael slept almost an hour and a half and awoke just as the very last guests were leaving. Afterwards we had fun opening presents with him. Monsters and books and clothes and cute doggies.. and later we went to Barnes and Nobles and bought him another book and a cute set of pots and pans. They have toys now at Barnes and Nobles! As if that store was not dangerous enough! Last part of the very special day was a bath in which he had his new bath toys all for himself. I predict when big brother comes back from his little vacation with mimi and pa, it will be a wet battle waged for who gets to use it!

After bath we cuddled him all up in the fluffy red bathrobe that his great grandmother had send him, and he was ready for bed very soon after.

I love birthday parties.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Towards that first birthday

Maybe this post makes me a bad mommy, but honestly, the first year of life with a baby for me is survival. Of course I have only done it two times so far. And maybe I had more difficult children than most, but I am not certain. I think the issue is more with me than with the children.
I LOVE my children, but I wish I could fast forward through that first year. A lot of people said to me with my first child: Ohh.. you are going to miss this. Maybe. Maybe when my children are all grown up and I have an empty house, I may. But in the mean time it is very comforting to me to look at Joseph and think how much more I liked the twoes than I did that first year. And how much more I like the threes than the twoes. Even with all the tantrums, and trying to instill manners, a love for art, reading, gratitude, faith, healty food, quietness, exercise and everything together... I enjoy interaction with my child so much more.

And the older Michael becomes, the more possible it becomes to do things with him. Or things with Joseph. Or things with both of them together. Sometimes it sounds like heresy to older moms that long back for that baby stage. But I can't wait to leave it behind for the firsts, the seconds, the thirds... and maybe even the teenage years. Though I will reserve judgement on that till I am there!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Late night creativity

how far we are removed from food...

. I think that, in general, I feed my family well. Sure, there are occasional trips to McDonalds and we have pizza night. But most days, we have vegetables (fresh or frozen), meat or another protein. Some meals with or without extra carbs. I use mostly whole wheat pasta, brown rice. There are frequent greens, reds, browns on our menu and don't get me started on fruit. I take my boys shopping with me, and Joseph's greatest delight is to be able to get some Brussels sprouts. Yes, we buy cookies too (or make them). And there are crackers and goldfish. But all in all, I think we are doing pretty well. I let Joseph help with cooking and baking to make sure he is connected to the the food. That's why yesterdays exchange came as a surprise.

I had taken my chicken out of the fridge to prepare it for roasting, and was removing the giblets. Joseph came up next to me and asked: "What is that?" I turned to him, surprised and said: "That is a chicken." I have roasted chicken's before, though not in the last two or three months I think.

Joseph looked at the chicken again, nodded and concluded: "A dinosaur chicken."

I nearly dubbled laughing. Maybe a dinosaur chicken is one that has not yet evolved into chicken nuggets? Or chicken breast filets?

He did actualy eat some of the chicken that evening though, which is a victory as he is going to a period in which he turns up his pert little nose for anything I make for dinner. I may have to cut back on those after naptime snacks and make sure he is more hungry.